The farmers groups approached the Supreme Court in a plea to allow them to protest at Jantar Mantar. Here's what happened today.
“You have strangulated the entire city and now you want to come inside and start protest here again,” an irked Supreme Court Friday told a farmers’ body protesting against the three new farm laws and seeking directions to authorities to allow it to stage 'satyagrah' at Jantar Mantar here.
What was the point in continuing with the protest once it has moved the court challenging the farm laws, the apex court asked the farmers' body, and said the citizens have equal rights to move freely and without fear and there has to be some “balanced approach”.
A bench of justices A M Khanwilkar and C T Ravikumar asked the petitioners whether they take permission from the residents of the area if they are “happy” with their protest.
The top court was hearing a petition filed by ‘Kisan Mahapanchayat’, a body of farmers and agriculturists, and its president seeking directions to the concerned authorities to provide space to at least 200 farmers or protestors of the body at the Jantar Mantar for organising peaceful and non-violent ‘Satyagraha.
“You have strangulated the entire city and now you want to come within the city and start protest again here,” the bench said, adding, “There has to be some balanced approach”.
At the outset, the counsel appearing for the petitioners told the bench that the plea is seeking direction to the concerned authorities to permit them to stage ‘Satyagrah’ at Jantar Mantar here.
“Tell us one thing, you want ‘Satyagrah’ here, no difficulty. But you have approached the court. Once you have approached the court, have trust in the court and the judicial system that it will decide your case appropriately,” the bench said.
It said the petitioner has already moved the high court against the farm laws and they can approach the court for expeditious hearing.
“What is the point of doing ‘Satyagrah’?” the bench observed.
The counsel argued that the courts will examine the validity of the farm laws.
“Your issue is only that repeal those three laws. You have filed a writ petition before the high court. Once you have made up your mind and have approached the court and having done that, thereafter you cannot say that you will continue with the protest. What is the purpose of this,” the bench asked.
When the bench asked, “Are you protesting against the judicial system”, the petitioner’s counsel said, “no”.
“Once you have approached the judicial system, have faith in the court. You pursue that matter for urgent hearing instead of protesting again,” the bench said.
It said right to protest is there but the citizens also “have equal rights to move freely and without fear”.
“Their properties are being damaged. Do you take permission from the residents around that whether they are happy with your protest,” the apex court said, adding, “This coaxing business should stop”.
Even the security personnel were obstructed during the protest and it has come in media reports that when defence personnel were travelling, they were stopped and heckled, it added.
The petitioner’s counsel said the farmers are holding peaceful protest.
“What is this peaceful protest? You block trains, you block highways and then you say your protest is peaceful and without causing any harm to the public,” the bench said.
The counsel said the highways have not been blocked by the farmers, but by the police.
The bench said the farmers’ body has come to the court and they also stage protest and block highways due to which public transport system is affected.
When the counsel argued that the petitioner body has not blocked any highways, the bench said, “You are not part of that protest, declare that position on affidavit. We will take notice of that.”
The petitioner’s counsel said he would file an affidavit.
The bench, which posted the matter for hearing on October 4, asked the petitioners to file an affidavit through e-mail declaring that they are not part of the protest, which is being carried out, and blocking of the national highways at the borders of the city.
It asked the petitioner to serve advance copy of the plea to the central agency and also to the office of the Attorney General.
Several farmer organisations are protesting against the passage of three laws -- The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 and Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020.
Initially, the protests started from Punjab in November last year and later spread mainly to Delhi, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh.
The plea, filed through advocate Ajay Choudhary, has arrayed the Centre, the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, and the Police Commissioner of Delhi as respondents.
The petition has said that representation made by the petitioners to the concerned authority to permit them to hold a peaceful protest at Jantar Mantar has been rejected.
“The action of the respondents is also discriminatory and arbitrary as permission to protest has been granted to another farmer body while denying the petitioner to organise staggered ‘Satyagrah’, which is the most non-violent, peaceful, and truthful form of protest perfected and practised by father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi,” the plea has alleged.
It claimed that the action of concerned authorities in permitting similar protests at the same site is “unfair” and violative of the Right to Equality.
(With PTI Inputs)